By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon, Juba
Okay Africa Foundation, a youth led advocacy organization has concluded the long awaited review consultations on Students Support Fund Bill in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology for adoption.
The Bill provides welfare opportunities for students while at the public universities as the fund helps less-privileged students and others to continue with studies.
It was undertaken by the organization as one of the provisions in the Chapter four of the 2018 peace accord.
Chapter four of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan stipulates for the establishment of the new institutions including Students Support Fund.
Though the Bill has been in existence as the National Student Welfare Bill 2019 that was tabled to the Council of Ministers, then it was referred to the governance and economic clusters for further review.
As a result, the youth entity championed a number of consultations including online engagements among students and academia from various public universities.
At least both physical and virtual consultations were held. These involved students’ representatives, academia, regional experts, local experts and education officials.
The program conducted by the Okay Africa Foundation (OAF) was funded by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).
Data Gordon, the Program Coordinator for the organization said they managed to draw a clear roadmap for the document during the consultations.
“We were able to draw the road map from the consultations. We also managed to gather inputs from direct beneficiaries and other experts to help enrich the document,” he said.
According to the youth activist, the action points would be submitted to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology for further deliberations, before final submission to Council of Ministers and Parliament for approval.
Godfrey Gaw Dak, a Law Student at the University of Juba said the proposed initiative would support the students welfare if the inputs were genuinely considered.
“It is one of the great initiatives that are going to cater for the wellbeing of the students; however, it should be enacted into law with clear specification as it is. The sources of funds should be kept forth,” he said.
The University student said they (students) were much concerned about the timeframe especially when the initiative would be held.
“It needs not to be prolonged because most of the students are in dire need of this support. This would enable those who are not able to support themselves to easily get assisted,” Dak concluded.
Ms. Alice Taban Yonama, another student from the University of Juba affirmed that most of the students were dropping out of the universities due to lack of financial support coupled with heavy tuition fees.
But once the Bill is enacted into law, it is going to cater for the wellbeing of the students dropping out in the various learning institutions due to financial issues, according to the student.
She affirmed that lack of such Bill in the past had resulted in massive drop-outs of the vulnerable students.
Ms. Yonama hopes the Ministry of Higher Education follows up the Bill enactment with immediate effect so that it helps the learners.
Jame David Kolok, a Civil Society activist with Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance said it was vital to acknowledge the proposed Bill in the context of the broaden education policy in a bid to support the students.
He pledged the civil society’s support towards pushing for Bill so that it is enacted in time by the Parliament.
“Our support is to ensure that we got this Bill enacted by the Parliament at as soon as possible,” he said.
Gabriel Changson Chang, the National Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology said he was headed towards pushing for the Bill.
“We are always challenged by our students rightfully. Most of the cases include lack of food, transport and accommodation in the Universities, and so many things, but how do we provide those things? He questioned.
“So we have to look inward and create our own resources to do our things,” he answered.
He admitted that though the Ministry was being faced with challenges; it was logical to push for the students Bill.
In 2014, a Republican number 16/2014 ordered for establishment of the students’ welfare fund to help learners in the public universities.
This was later followed by a Ministerial order by the then Minister that constituted a committee to work on the Bill.
As a result, the committee was formed to work on a draft and came up with a number of documents that proposed national campaign for funding the Bill as well as Organizational Chart and accommodation Bill which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2016.
But the Country went silent on the Bill’s issue until 2019 when the Ministry of Justice sent the Bill to the Council of Ministers.
However, it was later resent back for further discussion since its findings were loose, according to the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Changson said it was imperative that the students were finally consulted on the status of the document since they are the direct beneficiaries.
The reviewed Bill defined the governance structures of the body, chain of chain, sources of funding, regulations and legal framework.